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Chapter 15


Me Again. Raised on a farm, the desire to grow things was instilled in me at an early age. After the forage crops for the cattle, the cotton for a cash crop, the next important thing was the family garden. My paternal grandparents always set aside at least an acre as close to the house and the windmill as possible. You would think we were about to feed the entire county and sometimes it looked it, especially when my sorry old Uncle came to visit. When he came in the house, before saying hello, the first words out of his mouth would be, "I brought you some jars Mama." He never mentioned these same jars were full when he had carried them home the previous visit. As soon as he emptied the carton, he would start hauling full ones out to his car. When the trunk was full, he would start piling jars in the floorboard. My dad asked him one time why he didn't bring a trailer. He was the baby boy and a spoiled brat. I love him but I don't like him. He cheated me one time out of something very dear to me and I still get mad when I think about it.

But I didn't start out to rag on Uncle. By the way his kids were brats too. Back to the garden. Everyone pitched in, mostly the women and us kids. During the growing season we pulled and hoed weeds, picked squash bugs and hook worms off the tender plants and when the fruit or vegetables were ripe, we would spend the morning harvesting. Then the work began. Canning and preserving so my Uncle could haul it off to Kermit where he had a job driving a pickup as a Pumper for Shell Oil Company.

We either had a wood stove or a kerosene, no air conditioning and it would be hotter than nine kinds of hot. My mother, aunts and grandmother would be sweating like Democrats at a Republican fund raiser. The kids would be shelling peas, snapping beans or other chores like washing the jars or bringing in firewood for the big old stove. We did have plenty of nourishment - fresh black-eyed peas, onions, squash, okra, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes - you folks raised on a farm or have gardens know of that I speak. Put all that with a young tender fryer, ham or maybe beef from one of our own herd and have a meal fit for a king. Sometimes we bartered for fruit, peaches and apricots, and these would go in the jars or be dried to make those delicious fried pies.

As I grew older and had my own family, the urge to garden came around every spring. If I had the property, I would plant something. Mostly tomatoes, onions and peppers. They took up less room and didn't take a lot of time.

When we moved to our present home in April 1980, the house had been vacant for quite a while and the yard was a mess. I didn't do much the first year, I was in Holland and California until December. But the spring of 1981, I tilled a two foot wide bed all the way around the back yard. Below the house, what I call the jungle, I tilled a ten by fifty foot area and planted cucumbers and squash. When they were ready to harvest it got so my neighbors would not answer the door, afraid I had another sack of vegetables. Same with the okra I planted on top. One row would have been plenty but nooooo, I had to plant three rows. Tomatoes, onions and egg plants were wise choices also. We had an abundance of everything and froze a lot of it.

Someone mentioned I needed a compost pile. Using decorative timbers, I constructed one on the North side of the house. Ten feet by ten feet and twenty-four inches high and filled it with grass clippings and leaves that I mulched. I turned it under with my little tiller about once a month. Came in handy when Nonie needed potting soil for her little projects.

About five years ago, I lost interest and allowed the garden plots along the fence to be taken over by St. Augustine grass. I kept the compost pile but last year I noticed it had stopped working. My neighbor suggested I start throwing table scraps on the heap. I tossed out some cantaloupe seeds, some potatoes that had started to sprout, some onion tops, egg shells and when Nonie wasn't looking, I poured sugar over the top. Supposed to make it "work." Well, it worked all right! I was out there this morning and lo and behold, I had a cantaloupe vine, what appears to be potato vines, green onions just peeking through the mulch but the strangest thing of all were two little baby chicks. GOTCHA!

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